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there's always aweigh

Archive for the month “May, 2011”

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Now He Can Be Impeached

Per abc NEWS, Pres. Obama has used the War Powers Resolution as justification for US military involvement in Libya;

From the beginning of the U.S. military intervention in Libya, the Obama administration has cited the 1973 War Powers Act as the legal basis of its ability to conduct military activities for 60 days without first seeking a declaration of war from Congress. The military intervention started on March 19; Congress was notified on March 21.

With his letter to Congress yesterday rejecting Congress’s authority for continuation of his military activities in (or only over) Libya, Mr. Obama treads blithely beyond the Constitution on the flimsiest of pretensions.

“Intermittent warfare” is still war, Mr. President, and war isn’t defined by the number of troops your side loses. Drones and aeriel bombardment are fulltime implements of war whenever they are used on another country’s real estate and people. Ask Congress for a war authorisation Pres. Obama (or better yet, declare “victory” and re-deploy the military assets elsewhere), or spend the rest of your life fleeing from the questions posed by the relatives of those lost to your own Vietnam when this debacle-in-the-building inevitably grows to a scale that rivals that failure of US leadership.

The Other Option

Uncle says he plans to slow-cook a pork roast for the scheduled Rapture tomorrow. Personally, I’m relieved that FedEx managed to deliver my latest order from Cheaper Than Dirt in time. That 500 round brick of Super Colibri LRN may be just the ticket should the post-Rapture disappointment be too widespread and energetic.

Other’s disappointment, you understand. As long as the ammo will cycle the Buckmark, I’m good.

It’s Here!

Well, not here, here; at the gun store.

Finally.

Got the call too late to go get it and have time to shoot it too, so no O/T for me tonight and up early enough tomorrow morning to do all that then.

Note to self: remember to buy a de-mooner and more moon clips.

Update 5/18/11: Got it! Shoots well and shows no tendency to spontaneously dis-assemble. 🙂

Further note to self: remember in future to check the package to see if moon clips are included. Don’t know as I’ll need all 12 of them any time soon, but I’m well equiped now, that’s certain.

Proper-ish range report w/ pics to follow. Any day real soon now. 🙂

Update

Work= Too much

Money= Not enough

Blog= What’s that?

Thanks Kevin. And, buck up Tam, somebodies always got a shovel. 🙂

Not-Fisking Phil Bowermaster

Phil Bowermaster is the (co- ?) creator of The Speculist blog, co-host of Fast Forward Radio and now the on-line “voice” of the Zapoint company. I have been a long-time commenter on The Speculist as have Phil and his blog-partner Stephen on my blog; Phil has even gotten desperate for interview guests had me as a guest on Fast Forward Radio. He and I have a shared context, so I’m confident he won’t be offended by my adopting the utility of the more normally offensive form this post’s structure has admittedly been drawn from.

In his Transparency Revolutionary persona, Phil posted a complex viewpoint on secrecy and transparency that made reference to Julian Assange and Wikileaks. Before getting into Phil’s post, let me take this opportunity to make clear that I personally regard Mr. Assange as being repulsive, self-aggrandising scum deserving the worst treatment humanly possible for his abusive betrayal of other’s safety merely to stroke his own ego and financially better himself. As he has operated it to-date, Wikileaks and all who participate in that great betrayal deserve the professional attentions of Seal Team Six at their next opportunity.

I’m widely known to be an easy-going guy though, so perhaps I understate my feelings.

Phil wrote:

The Spy Machine and Absolutes
Posted on May 3, 2011 by Phil

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is known for having strong opinions about things, e.g.:

Wikileaks Founder: Facebook is the most appalling spy machine that has ever been invented

Here we have the world’s most comprehensive database about people, their relationships, their names, their addresses, their locations, their communications with each other, and their relatives, all sitting within the United States, all accessible to US Intelligence.”

I don’t think that’s just hyperbole.

Right you are Phil; it’s nonsense on stilts! Facebook is an accumulation of unsourced data points that might by correlated to indicate potential (and extremely tentative) conclusions to anyone willing to put forth the time and work necessary to structure the data to some unintended (by Facebook and it’s users) purpose.

A spy searches out data that has been deliberately obscured. In the Facebook example, a spy would spend extensive resources searching for the data concealed by the self-posted data available to anyone who logged on to the site. I am confident this is not what Mr. Assange refers to, so “spy” is entirely misleading as is his description of the nature of the data made available by Facebook’s users.

Putting aside the question of whether the US government has unhindered or even special express access to the Facebook database, such a collection of data is a tremendous intelligence tool and is bound to be used as such. Before Facebook, Google was the most appalling spy machine ever built. A decade or so ago, AOL was. Before that it was email. A century ago, it might well have been claimed that the telephone directory was.

Actually, as it’s structured Facebook is at best a collection of data that could have intelligence value in an extremely precise application by any party willing to search out those statistically few data points of relative value to the express purpose. Uncle Sugar may very well have access to every piece of information it could possibly want about you and in all likelihood wouldn’t ever know it did unless the .gov was already looking at you beforehand and knew to search for data specific to you. Otherwise, we’re all securely lost in the daticular sea of confusion that is Facebook.

Other than the potential for data search convenience once a specific data sequence has been identified, Facebook is a nightmare of data overload.

Assange is something of an absolutist when it comes to transparency. The defining principal behind Wikileaks is that any information that has been deemed restricted and that can be published…should be published. Assange is the universal, indiscriminate whistle-blower. In his view, government (and particularly intelligence agencies) represent a class of universal, indiscriminate exploiters of information.

And here we come to the point of contention.

Just in passing (and I am far from the first to make this observation), I notice Herr Assange – and Wikileaks more generally – seem to have the decidedly Circumstantialist policy of not revealing the secrets of those who have the reputation of actually killing those who do so. {cough}Putin{cough}

That out of the way, the US government is, at least in design, an extension of the citizens of that country. Even if only to the degree that can still be said to be true, the secrets he/they brute about are mine! The US federal government is a deliberately crafted construct intended to permit the greatest opportunity for expression of all the citizenry’s interests in all of their often gloriously contradictory intent. If Mr. Assange wishes to take active part in adjusting that construct, he should take out citizenship, otherwise I am in danger of agreeing with Vice-President Biden and the psychic shock of that occurance isn’t to be contemplated.

In his view, government (and particularly intelligence agencies) represent a class of universal, indiscriminate exploiters of information. Yes. Yes they are. In fact, I would go so far as to say that is one of the deliberate and designed-in purposes of the US federal government expressly for the benefit of the US citizenry at large. True “whistle-blowers” work to make sure the data exploitation doesn’t get directed against the citizens by their own government – who, it should be acknowledged, is expected to exploit everybody else (secretly, of course). Working to defeat this function is one of the actions taken by an active enemy of said country and it’s citizens.

Just sayin’.

For those of us who aren’t transparency absolutists, the world looks a little murkier. I agree with Assange that exposing corruption to the light of day is a good and necessary thing. I also agree that the government’s rather covetous attitude towards our rapidly diminishing private information is a cause for concern–if not alarm.

exposing corruption to the light of day is a good and necessary thing. Disagree on principle. Exposing corruption may well be a just and necessary thing, but “good” can only be derived from the context within which an action takes place. Exposing someone for stealing to feed his/her family (receiving food stamps fraudulently, say) would be Just, but precious little Good would come of it.

“Justice” and “Goodness” are synonyms only to those who impose judgement upon others, which is not the same thing as judging something for one’s self. This may seem a pedantic point of distinction, but it remains an important distinction nonetheless, I submit. Without a fixed meaning applied to concepts like language, human civilisation fails.

When I look at Facebook, I see a lot of things, but I don’t know that a “spy machine” is among them. Nor can a look at Wikileaks and see an unmitigated good. (I don’t doubt that Wikileaks is powerful, however, and likely to become more so.)

Wikileaks “power” is the direct result of the degree of use others make of it, not some factor inherent to the structural model. If, as has been charged, some soldier hadn’t violated his oath of service, Wikileaks wouldn’t have access to the data it has cooperated in betraying, ergo Wikileaks would have nothing to leak on it’s own. Wikileaks’ only “power” is it’s promise of betrayal. Betrayal of those who confide in it. Betrayal of the trust of those who’s data is stolen.

I can see the appeal of the absolutist mindset. Everything is so tidy; there are no difficult choices to make. The government should never conceal any information, and any that is concealed should be revealed. Any government interest in personal information is, by definition, not legitimate and to be opposed. And, of course, any large collection of personal information is nothing more than an opportunity for exploitation.

Those ideas are close enough to the truth to be appealing, but far enough from it to be dangerous. The reality is that every decision to disclose or withhold information involves a trade-off of risks and benefits. There is frequently ambiguity around who owns any given piece of information, who is entitled to know it, and who benefits either from its concealment or disclosure.

The absolutist approach leads ultimately not to transparency but to a kind of information anarchy. The element of trust is what’s missing both from closed organizations and societies and from the worldview of the transparency absolutists. Real transparency is all about leveraging the power of openness and authenticity within a complex and often ambiguous framework that we know as “the real world.” A transparent society or organization is self-aware, self-directed, and self-optimizing in a way that a low-trust society or organization never could be.

Let me conclude by stating that I hold Julian Assange in such low regard not due to my love of government intrusion or fondness for data classification protocols, but rather due to his unrepentant and deliberate disregard for the impact his actions have on those who’s lives are part and parcel of the data he exposes so indiscriminately. Not so much for the individual actors, those who are knowingly participants in that which Assange reveals (though they are equally deserving of having their trust respected), but more for those associated with them, their families and other associates. All these and more are actively endangered just so Julian Assange can have me typing his name onto my computer screen (among other claims to infamy). Perhaps even more than all of that though, Julian Assange deserves contempt for his desecration of the human condition expressed in the word “trust”. In my view, people everywhere are more suspicious of each other, and less generous of forgiveness, as a direct result of Assange’s Wikileaks debasement of trust, and for this most of all I despise him and all his works.

The reality is that every decision to disclose or withhold information involves a trade-off of risks and benefits. This.

Colored by the realisation that all people (as individuals or in organised fashion) work to achieve advantage for themselves, the gains realised through transparency will always need to be balanced by the advantage gained from closely held knowledge as well.

Which is just another way of saying what Phil said in closing.

UPDATE: The one time I don’t check Instapundit first, he has this bit of Facebook relevance on offer. Talk about your “spy machine”. 😉

Osama (Officially) Bin Dead

If ABC and Yahoo both report it then it must be true. Not that I doubt the truth of the report really, it’s the willingness to report the result with no supporting detail that bothers me.

One obvious point of uncertainty is who is going to be bilked out of the $25 million?

Osama Bin Ladin’s remains should be formally interred beneath the lowest sub-foundation of the World Trade Center site and new construction begin atop his grave immediately after as conclusion of the ceremony.

Happy Birthday To Him

Just back from the Grandson’s first birthday party. He’s not too sure about the big guy with the mustache yet, but the goodies are ok. 🙂

Boy’s already got damn near as many guns as I do (in my gun locker, where they’ll stay ’till Mom and Dad say he’s old/responsible enough). I may have to get a bigger place to hold it all at the rate I’ve been going though. I keep having to shove his ammo around to get to mine.

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